Connect through Conversation

Novelist E. M. Forster (1879 – 1970) wrote the words, “Only connect!” in the hope that readers would connect his prose with the passion in themselves. It is also my motto for all of the activity exercises I have created. I hope they will serve as a prop to open up conversations between people who may not otherwise know they had anything in common. We know that having a strong social network is a key element in aging well, and finding common ground builds friendships. (Portrait of Mr. Forster by Roger Fry)

The topic of interesting conversations is especially relevant as we face the not-always-smooth encounters with relatives during November/December holidays.

One way to influence smooth conversations is by showing interest in others, by asking questions, especially ones about their experiences, opinions, and advice:

  •  Did you ever _______?
  • Do you prefer _______ or ________?
  • What would you do if _____?

The difficulty for many of us is that after we’ve commented on the weather, we just can’t seem to think of questions to ask. That’s where books like the two versions of The Conversation Piece (Creative Questions to Tickle the Mind), and the two versions of If . . . (Questions for the Game of Life) can be of great help.

The questions in all these books are wide-ranging and not divided by subject, so you can open them anywhere and ask away. Here’s a sampling from The Conversation Piece:

  •  If any one of the national holidays had to be celebrated twice a year, which one would you want it to be?
  •  If you were given an unlimited amount of money and the necessary technology to invent anything you desired, what would you invent?
  •  A major motion picture is being made about your life. What song or songs should be on the sound track?

And here’s a few from If . . .

  • If you could physically transport yourself to any place in the world at the moment, where would you go?
  • If you could keep only one home appliance, which would you keep?
  • If you could receive one small package this very moment, who would it be from and what would be in it?

The If  books have many more negative questions about disasters, revenge, and losses, so opening the books at random is likely to be much more successful with the Conversation Piece set. Moreover, those authors have created several other books in the same vein, including Mom and Dad Conversation Piece.

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